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Route 66
Route 66

A wild ride to the American West

Route 66 in short

A wind of freedom has been blowing over Route 66 for years. A symbol of the American Dream, during the first half of the 20th century and in particular during the Great Depression of the 1930s, many people set off on this long journey to the American West in search of work and a better quality of life. It was thanks to this huge influx that the area around the road was developed: motels, restaurants, towns, etc. It was the golden age of Route 66. Today, it is no longer classified as a road, but it is still very famous and attracts many tourists.

The route of Route 66

Crossing the United States from East to West, Route 66 is approximately 2,500 miles, or 4,000 km, long, between Chicago, Illinois and Santa Monica, California. It passes through 8 American states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

The kilometres follow one another, but they are not the same.

Long, deserted, rocky and sometimes steep, Route 66 is virtually endless, crossing a striking variety of natural jewels; mountains, deserts or major cities, Route 66 offers a multitude of landscapes without the need to change roads. It gives travellers a perfect sample of all that Mother Nature is capable of creating in the United States.

© Martina Birnbaum / Shutterstock

The rebirth of Route 66

Route 66 enthusiasts are gradually restoring motels, restaurants and shops, and bringing back to life villages that in some cases were completely deserted, such as Seligman, which is now a must-see stop on your journey. In Missouri, you can even visit an open-air museum dedicated to Route 66.

© Nick Fox / Shutterstock

How to get there?

Those wishing to cover the whole of Route 66 can fly into Chicago and then hire a car to embark on the adventure. This way, the journey will be the same as in the past, from East to West. But for those wishing to head east, simply take the opposite route, book a flight to Los Angeles and begin the journey in Santa Monica. The scenery will be the same, although the journey is likely to have a little less flavour because it won't be the same as the Conquest of the West.

Route 66

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Where to stay?

When travelling along Route 66, it would be a shame not to experience the authentic atmosphere of the Conquest of the West, right down to the accommodation you choose. Many motels and establishments, both historic and upmarket, can be found along the route.

Practical information

Safety

The United States does not present a safety risk for visitors. Nevertheless, given the vast stretches of desert in the West, you should be careful. If you are making long car journeys through the deserts of Arizona, you need to take along a supply of water in summer and stay well hydrated at all times of the day. You should also check road conditions before setting off. Some animals can be dangerous, such as bears, grizzly bears or wolves in the north, or snakes in the deserts of the south-west. Fortunately, they are not very curious and you will rarely come across them.

Formalities and visas

Since January 2009, nationals of visa-exempt countries, including France, have had to apply online for an ESTA travel authorisation at least 72 hours before departure. This authorisation is valid for two years or until your passport expires.

If you have an old-style passport, you will need a visa, as this type of passport is not machine-readable and therefore not secure under US regulations. However, you can use it until its expiry date. But note that the tourist visa will cost you 80 euros. The United States requires an individual passport, whatever the age of the traveller. Babies (even a few months old) and children must therefore have the same passport as adults (or an individual visa if the child is included in the passport of one of the parents who has a visa). The individual passport for children should be applied for at the Préfecture or Sous-préfecture de Police in the place of residence. It is valid for 5 years and costs 30 euros.

Because of the attacks of 11 September 2001, security checks are more numerous and longer for travellers to the United States. Remember to allow a little extra time at the airport.

Transport

Route 66 aficionados are adamant about the perfect mount for travelling along Route 66. But in reality, it's best to adapt your vehicle to your journey. Some will not hesitate to hire a motorbike for the sensation of riding with their hair blowing in the wind. This solution is better suited to solo travellers or groups of friends who love two wheels and other big bikes. For those travelling as a family, it's best to opt for a car, which will offer a more comfortable ride. For a treat, you can hire a classic car. This will add a certain cachet to your trip.

GOOD TO KNOW :

Be careful! Almost all cars hired in the USA are automatic. This is slightly different from manual driving, but is very pleasant over very long distances.

Health

No special vaccinations are required, but very good insurance is strongly recommended (for treatment and repatriation costs), in the event of illness or accident, given the very high cost of medical care in the United States. To contact the emergency services, dial 911 (police, fire brigade, ambulance). Good to know The prices of products displayed in shops are always exclusive of tax. State tax, in this case 7.75%, must be added. An additional local tax may be applied to hotels in certain towns, for a total that can vary from 11% to 14%. Prices quoted in the service sector (restaurants, taxis) always exclude a tip: it is customary to add a 15% tip to the price quoted. If you pay by credit card, you should add the tip yourself and make up the final bill before signing.

lightbulb_outline Editor's tip

The value of the US dollar can fluctuate considerably, so it is best to use small denominations. There are plenty of exchange offices in the major cities, although rates are higher at airports. You should also remember to take adapters with you, as American sockets are unusable as they are for French appliances.

Useful links
USA Tourist Office

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